A group of dancers practising for their American tour celebrate while unknowingly drinking LSD-laced Sangria; what could go wrong? Gaspar Noé is back with his newest, and possibly most accessible, film. Noé has been on a list of directors that I would label ‘watch cautiously’ ever since I originally saw his film Irréversible (2002) years ago. It was, and still is, one of the most emotionally detrimental films I had ever seen. With his use of amazingly unique cinematography, lighting, and camera movements, Noé immediately piqued my interest. I thought he knocked it out of the park with that film and hasn’t matched up to it since. While Enter the Void (2009) is an extremely interesting film visually and conceptually, the characters and story just did not work for me. The same can be said for his film Love (2015).
Climax is an extravaganza of dance, sex, chaos and, most importantly, panic. It is comparable to one long, 96-minute, looming panic attack. But in a good way. The film reels you in with a wicked-long dance number with blaring synth music and it is honestly enthralling to watch. It is one long beautiful take and it prepares you for the style that permeates the rest of the film. Noé can make a shot last 10-15 minutes without it coming across as if he is showing off. It takes real skill to set up these complex shots that last for so long and to pull them off flawlessly without having the actors mess up a line or having the continuity be broken. His long takes simply engage you as an audience member and make you feel as if you are part of the situation. It feels natural.
Seriously though, beware. This film is emotionally exhausting. It has a way of sticking a horrible feeling in your gut and keeping it there until long after the movie is over. It is a spectacle of a bad acid trip. The actors, camera work, and storytelling make it feel as if you are a witness to this chaotic event that is taking place. Sofia Boutella is fantastic in the film, and so is the rest of the cast. Every character feels so believable and honest. There is a lot of information given about the characters within the first 20 minutes through dialogue. This can be a bit confusing, considering there are a lot of them and we do not immediately learn all of their names. However, I think that this will make for rewarding rewatches.
‘Climax’ is much more accessible than any of Noe’s previous works. It is not ultra-violent, nor is it an excess in experimental filmmaking. It is a fairly straightforward story with fantastic performances, beautiful cinematography, and unbelievable camera work. It is by far his best film since Irréversible and may be his best film, period. Although multiple viewings will have to confirm this. It is enthralling in every regard and should be seen for the first time in a theatre if possible. I cannot wait to see this one for the second time.